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Property tax order adds to eviction drive ‘anger’ in J&K

NewsProperty tax order adds to eviction drive ‘anger’ in J&K

SRINAGAR: The latest decision of the government to impose property tax in Jammu and Kashmir has given further churn to the agitation mode, especially in the Jammu region. Now, Jammu BJP has also distanced itself from the latest government order, sensing trouble on the ground.
After the recent eviction drive in which thousands of people were affected, especially in the Jammu region, the latest government order has further angered people, along with all the political parties, including local BJP leaders.
The buzz and speculation in Kashmir valley, especially in journalistic and civil society circles, is whether the central government is providing the issues to the local political parties to fight the coming Assembly elections. Will political parties like the National Conference, Apni Party, PDP and the recently floated DAP led by Ghulam Nabi Azad fight the coming Assembly elections with the promise to roll back all these orders and provide relief to the people who are feeling the heat of the recent developments, especially after the demolition drive?
From curtailment in ration to enhancement of electric fee in entire Jammu and Kashmir, poor people are looking for an elected government so that they get relief from the present circumstances as there is an economic slump here. Coming back to the latest order, it has evoked an identical response from the political parties, especially from National Conference and DAP. Both of them have promised to roll back all these orders and to provide better relief to the poor people and also bring back the Roshni bill in the Assembly to regularize all the illegal houses and colonies. Jammu and Kashmir is under central rule from the past five years and the local political parties have been demanding elections as they remained pending due to delimitation exercises and the revision of electoral rolls. Fears in the minds of common people in Jammu and Kashmir have increased following the latest order about the collection of property tax from 1 April this year.
Democratic Azad Party (DAP) chief Ghulam Nabi Azad recently held a public gathering in which thousands of people were present and declared that if his party is elected to power, all the decisions would be rolled back and people would be given relief in a big way. “If the J&K administration had control on air, they would have levied tax on it as well. Thank God, it’s not in their control,” Azad told the public gathering at Anantnag.
BJP’s Jammu and Kashmir chief Ravinder Raina said that he will meet L-G Manoj Sinha on the property tax issue and their party is not in favour of such tax on the people of Jammu and Kashmir at this juncture. “BJP has not levied these taxes. We will speak to the Lt Governor and to the party leadership,” Raina was quoted in the media after the fresh wave of resentment against BJP in Jammu region.
National Conference, PDP, Congress, People’s Conference, Apni Party, CPIM and all other local political parties have opposed the property tax move by the administration and have said that it would be contested at all costs. Former Chief Minister and National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah tweeted, “No taxation without representation. Why should people in J&K pay state taxes including the proposed property tax when we have no say in how our government is run and no say in the decision making of J&K. We are expected to be mute spectators to all unjust decisions by Raj Bhavan”. Responding to the growing fears and resentment among the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta said that there would be no property tax for small houses and modest tax for small businesses. Explaining the methodology of levying this tax in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, the Principal Secretary, H&UDD, Rajesh Prasad, said that there is no tax liability for those having built-up area of their houses less than 1000 sft; besides the proportion of taxes is considerably less here than that levied in other parts of the country. Similarly, all places of worship, including Temples, Masjids, Gurudwaras, Churches, Ziarats, Cremation grounds, Burial grounds etc are exempt from payment of property tax. The Tax is proposed to be levied at just 5% of Taxable Annual Value (TAV) of the property in case of a residential property and at 6% of TAV in case of Non-Residential property. It was also apprised that the tax rates, even in the Corporations are one of the lowest in the country, almost half that of Himachal, and one fourth to one sixth, overall, of other progressive States like Gujarat Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi. Tax to be paid in Municipal Committees shall be much lower than that of Municipal Corporations. There is no property tax in rural areas. Besides the property tax is to be assessed and paid on an annual basis.
Even after a media campaign by the government to explain the logic behind the imposition of property tax, local political parties have got another issue to go to the people, asking them to participate in the elections and vote in their favour for its rollback.

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